I still practice contested litigation – about half of my law practice. It can be professionally challenging to switch from collaborative divorce practice to a litigious mindset in the same day, and sometimes the same hour. Since my preference is for collaborative law, when the transition feels most jarring is when I am faced with a situation where I would like to be trusting of the other attorney or the other party in a litigated case, as I would in a collaborative process. Since in litigation trust is discouraged and risky among professionals, and often entirely absent with divorcing couples, I have to withhold trust to some degree, and be mindful of the circumstances.
One of the gifts of collaborative divorce practice is the focus by professionals on building, or rebuilding, trust among the divorcing spouses. This takes trust among the professionals and modeling a trusting attitude to the collaborative team. It is normal for the spouses to have little to no trust in each other by the time they reach our offices, and they often have little trust in the collaborative process either. Some amount of trust is required to obtain a mutually agreeable, sustainable outcome, which is what we seek in collaborative practice. Beyond that, I know that helping the couple rebuild trust will benefit them, particularly where there are children involved, for many years to come. Working with the collaborative team to build trust, among team members and clients, and watching the transformation this sometimes creates in the difficult cases, is one of the most satisfying parts of my job.